In 1922, famed physicist Albert Einstein found himself without enough money to tip the bellboy who delivered something to his room. Rather than letting the boy leave empty-handed, the world-renowned scientist gave him something much more important — and, it turns out, valuable — when he jotted down his own personal advice on how to achieve happiness. Now, nearly a century later, that not has fetched a price neither Einstein nor the bellboy could ever have fathomed: $1.3 million.
The note, which was written in German, remains remarkably well preserved, and it took the auction house by storm with nearly a half hour of solid bidding. The unidentified buyer watched the price make its way from a measly $2,000 up into the stratosphere, eventually landing at $1.3 million. The seller is said to be the original bellboy’s nephew.
At the time the note was written, Einstein had recently learned he would win the Nobel Prize for his work in physics, and was at the top of scientific world. That’s what makes the note’s somber tone so interesting. It read simply “A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
That’s a striking statement from a man who dedicated himself to the pursuit of scientific knowledge and succeeded in becoming one of the most famous individuals on the planet during the latter years of his life and well after his death in 1955.
The final price of the note was dramatically higher than previous auction estimates had predicted, and the individual who placed the winning bid chose to remain anonymous after successfully beating out the rest of the auction crowd.
A second note from Einstein to the hotel employee which read “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” fetched a lofty $240,000 at the same auction, though it was purchased by a different individual. That price, while significantly lower, also exceeded pre-auction estimates.
Einstein’s work continues to be useful for scientists, and some of his more bold theories regarding gravity and the behavior of light in space have only recently been proven true. His brilliance will continue to live on for the foreseeable future, as will his advice on how to achieve a happy life.